Home Monitors Don't Appear to Predict SIDS
WebMD News Archive
The monitors were used to detect episodes of apnea -- or a
sudden halt in breathing lasting at least 20 seconds -- as well as decreases in
heart rate. Researchers also used a specially designed monitor to detect
"extreme events" -- more severe apnea and more severe decreases in
heart rate -- not commonly detected by commercial monitors.
The results showed that there were nearly 7,000 events that
would have caused a conventional commercial monitor to sound the alarm,
occurring in 41% of all the infants. Even the "extreme" events, though
far more common in preterm infants, were fairly frequent in both healthy
infants and infants at risk for SIDS.
Because only six infants in the study died from SIDS, the study
cannot be used to determine an association between the events and risk for
death. But Lister points out that the extreme events tended to occur very early
in infants' lives -- much earlier than SIDS typically occurs. SIDS rarely
occurs before one month of age. It is most likely to occur when infants are 2-4
months old, with 95% of cases occurring by 6 months of age.
For that reason, he says, even the extreme events do not appear
to predict which babies will succumb to SIDS. "These extreme events may
represent vulnerability for some later problems, but they are unlikely to be
the immediate precursor to SIDS," he tells WebMD. "If they did, you
would expect a lot more kids with SIDS [immediately following the extreme
In an editorial accompanying the report, Alan H. Jobe, MD, PhD,
notes that approximately 20,000 preterm infants are sent home every year with
monitors at a cost of approximately $24 million per year. He says that although
the study was not designed to test the usefulness of home monitors to prevent
SIDS, the study results in more doubt than ever before on such a practice.
Jobe is with the division of pulmonary biology at Children's
Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.
Pediatrician Michael Malloy, MD, says the results come as no
surprise. "They confirm previous research showing that monitoring is not
the way for us to go about preventing SIDS," Malloy tells WebMD.